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County sells forfeited property to City of Hancock to sweeten deal for downtown bank

By Tom Larson

Sun Tribune

The City of Hancock is doing whatever it can to make its downtown as appealing as possible to the potential builders of a new bank building.

Hancock City Council member Bruce Malo appeared before the Stevens County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday to seek the purchase of a tax-forfeited property in Hancock.

The board agreed to sell the property - pending a legal review by County Attorney Charles Glasrud - to Hancock for $1. After the forfeiture of the property, the county had planned to give the property to the city, but the deed transfer never was completed.

With the property, which includes a building, is important to Hancock's effort to help the Community Development Bank construct a new facility downtown.

Community Development Bank purchased 1st American State Bank of Minnesota, which had branches in Hancock and Benson, earlier this year. Bank officials are checking out a few potential locations in town for a new building. Bank officials said after the purchase that they wanted a new building, but now wants a new project underway within 180 days, Malo said.

"The council didn't anticipate it would happen this fast," Malo said of CDB's expedited efforts to relocate. "We've encouraged them to build the bank downtown, kind of as a cornerstone of the community."

The city will have to spend about $17,000 - and probably more depending on asbestos issues - to demolish the building. The bank has pledged to contribute funds to help the city with its purchase and demolition, Malo said.

With the lot, Hancock will have five lots that can be redeveloped for the new bank building. The city currently owns two of the lots and has made arrangements to free up the others, giving it 150 feet -- roughly a half block - to offer CDB for redevelopment, Malo said.

Glasrud was instructed by the commissioners to review the legalities involved with deeding or selling tax-forfeited properties. It's a stipulation to the county finally signing off on the $1 deal.

"The intent is to ensure the Hancock downtown is viable," said board chair Don Munsterman. "On the other hand, we have to look at the legal aspect."

In other county business:

•Stevens County and RWF Enterprises reached an amicable settlement to a contract dispute regarding overdue accounts.

The county and RWF head Randy Fischer, who purchased the Stevens County Ambulance Service in January for more than $800,000, agreed that RWF will pay the county about $59,000 for "aged receivables" on the SCAS books when the purchase was completed.

In all, the ambulance service had more than $450,000 of outstanding accounts receivable upon closing. More than $155,000 of those outstanding balances are more than 151 days old.

RWF has dealt with about $95,000 of those balances. With a 10 percent write-off and a 20 percent commission for the sum collected, the county was left with about $67,000 owed by RWF on receivables collected. About $8,000 of that was for high school classes for Morris Area and Hancock students for which the county has been paid, so it's subtracted, leaving the county with $59,000.

Board members and Fischer stated that the agreement was amicable and the contract dispute arose from the somewhat hasty transfer of ownership. The county board approved the sale to RWF in December and the sale was closed Jan. 1. County Coordinator Jim Thoreen said a sale that might have been arranged over a one to two month period was hashed out in about two weeks.